Ratcliffe says ODNI has provided nearly 1,000 documents to DOJ to support Durham probe
Trump authorizes ‘total declassification’ of Russia probe documents
Fox News legal analyst Gregg Jarrett, Trump 2020 campaign adviser Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie react on ‘Hannity.’
Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe on Wednesday said that he has provided nearly 1,000 pages of material to the Justice Department to support U.S. Attorney John Durham’s investigation.
“At my direction, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has now provided almost 1,000 pages of materials to the Department of Justice in response to Mr. Durham’s document requests,” Ratcliffe said in a statement Wednesday. “I will continue to ensure the Intelligence Community’s responsiveness to the DOJ’s requests.”
Ratcliffe added that officials at ODNI “look forward to supporting the DOJ in further declassifications consistent with their investigation.”
“As the president has made clear, we must be appropriately transparent with the American people and give them the confidence that the extraordinary work of Intelligence professionals is never misused or politicized,” Ratcliffe said
The president, this week, “fully authorized the total declassification” of any and all documents related to the Russia investigation. Trump, in May 2019, following the completion of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, gave Barr the authority to begin a declassification process of documents related to surveillance of the Trump campaign in 2016.
Mueller’s investigation yielded no evidence of criminal conspiracy or coordination between the Trump campaign and Russian officials during the 2016 election.
Thus far, the Trump administration has declassified a number of documents, which allies of the president have cast as significant, citing their content as proof that the investigation into the president and his first campaign was baseless.
Declassification ramped up early this year, when Richard Grenell took the helm as acting director of National Intelligence, and then continued when Ratcliffe was confirmed and sworn in as DNI.
In May, Grenell cleared for release more than 6,000 pages of transcripts of interviews from the House Intelligence Committee’s long-running Russia investigation. Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., under pressure from Grenell and House Republicans, ultimately released the transcripts which revealed, among other things, that top Obama officials acknowledged they had no “empirical evidence” of collusion or a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election. Fox News first reported on the transcripts.
Grenell also moved to declassify an email that former National Security Adviser Susan Rice sent to herself on President Trump’s Inauguration Day, documenting a Jan. 5, 2017, Oval Office meeting with Obama and others, during which the former president provided guidance on how law enforcement needed to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race.
The declassified email revealed that former FBI Director James Comey suggested to Obama that the National Security Council might not want to pass “sensitive information related on Russia” to former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn, due to the fact that he had been “speaking frequently” with the Russian ambassador.
Then, Grenell declassified a list of Obama-era officials who requested to unmask the identity of Flynn in intelligence reports during the presidential transition period.
The roster included top-ranking figures, including then-Vice President Joe Biden, then-FBI Director James Comey, then-CIA Director John Brennan, then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and former President Barack Obama’s chief of staff Denis McDonough, among others.
Unmasking occurs after U.S. citizens' conversations are incidentally picked up in conversations with foreign officials who are being monitored by the intelligence community. The U.S. citizens' identities are supposed to be protected if their participation is incidental and no wrongdoing is suspected.
Officials, however, can determine the U.S. citizens' names through a process that is supposed to safeguard their rights. In the typical process, when officials are requesting the unmasking of an American, they do not necessarily know the identity of the person in advance.
Grenell also declassified more than three dozen previously redacted footnotes from the Justice Department inspector general’s report into intelligence community failures during the Russia investigation.
When current DNI John Ratcliffe was sworn in in late May, the declassifications continued — first with the release of transcripts of phone conversations that took place in December 2016 between Flynn and then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The transcripts detailed the discussions that would later lead to Flynn’s FBI interview and subsequent charges. Fox News first reported on the transcripts.
The transcripts had been, in part, declassified by Grenell, in one of his last moves as acting DNI, but the declassification process was completed by Ratcliffe, vowing “transparency” within the ODNI upon their release.
The documents include a key Dec. 29, 2016 conversation in which Flynn repeatedly urged Russia not to dramatically escalate tensions in response to sanctions imposed by the outgoing Obama Administration over election interference.
It has been known that Flynn made such appeals to Russia during the transition period ever since the FBI pressed him for details about that discussion in early 2017. Flynn pleaded guilty in December of that year to a single count of lying to investigators.
Since that charge, Flynn has fought to withdraw his plea and the Justice Department in May moved to drop the prosecution entirely, maintaining that the FBI’s interview was “conducted without any legitimate investigative basis.”
Meanwhile, in June, Ratcliffe declassified a footnote on the 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) on Russian election interference, which noted that the reporting of Trump dossier author Christopher Steele had only “limited corroboration” regarding whether then-President elect Donald Trump “knowingly worked with Russian officials to bolster his chances of beating Hillary Clinton and other claims.
The unverified anti-Trump dossier helped serve as the basis for controversial Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants obtained against former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
The footnote made clear the internal concerns officials had over the dossier, which revealed that Steele used “both identified and unidentified sub sources” and noted that they “have “only limited corroboration of the source’s reporting in this case and did not use it to reach the analytic conclusions of the CIA/FBIA/NSA assessment.”
The footnote also stated that "the source collected this information on behalf of private clients and was not compensated for it by the FBI.”
Steele’s reporting, at the time, was commissioned by opposition research firm Fusion GPS and funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) through law firm Perkins Coie.
It was later revealed, in September, by Attorney General Barr, that one of the primary sources for Steele’s reporting had been the subject of an FBI counterintelligence investigation from 2009 to 2011 for suspected contact with Russian intelligence officers.
Meanwhile, in July, Ratcliffe declassified a document that revealed that the FBI agent who delivered a defensive briefing on election interference to the Trump campaign in August 2016 “actively listened” for certain topics—using it as a “cover” to monitor then-candidate Donald Trump and Flynn, which Fox News first reported.
The briefing, which was held at the FBI's New York Field Office, also included a "13-minute defensive briefing" delivered by FBI agent Joe Pientka.
The document was dated August 30, 2016, and filed under “Crossfire Hurricane,” the FBI’s code name for its investigation into whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians to influence the 2016 election; “Crossfire Razor,” the FBI’s code name for the investigation into Michael Flynn; "Russia Sensitive Investigative Matter," and FARA, the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
The document stated that FBI officials Kevin Clinesmith and Peter Strzok "approved" Pientka's notes.
The source told Fox News that Pientka, at the time of the briefing, was also tasked with running the FBI's investigation into Flynn.
The source went on to tell Fox News that the briefing was used as “a cover to listen for any remarks” by Trump or others about the Russian federation.
A senior administration official told Fox News that the declassified document "shows the same cast of virulent characters that spearheaded the Russia hoax, set Trump up from jump.”
"Clinesmith, the FISA forger and his trusted sidekick, Strzok, attempted to make good on their promise to prevent Trump from winning," the official told Fox News. "A scam briefing from a scam crew of miscreants at the FBI.”
Brennan’s handwritten notes – which were taken after he briefed Obama on the intelligence the CIA received – and a CIA memo, which revealed that officials referred the matter to the FBI for potential investigative action.
A source familiar with the documents explained that Brennan's handwritten notes were taken after briefing Obama on the matter.
“We’re getting additional insight into Russian activities from [REDACTED],” Brennan notes read. “CITE [summarizing] alleged approved by Hillary Clinton a proposal from one of her foreign policy advisers to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by the Russian security service,” Brennan’s notes read.
The notes state “on 28 of July." In the margin, Brennan writes "POTUS," but that section of the notes is redacted.
“Any evidence of collaboration between Trump campaign + Russia,” the notes read.
The remainder of the notes are redacted, except in the margins, which reads: “JC,” “Denis,” and “Susan.”
The notes don't spell out the full names but "JC" could be referring to then-FBI Director James Comey, "Susan" could refer to National Security Adviser Susan Rice, and "Denis" could refer to then-Obama chief of staff Denis McDonough.
The declassification comes after Ratcliffe, last week, shared newly-declassified information with the Senate Judiciary Committee which revealed that in September 2016, U.S. intelligence officials forwarded an investigative referral on Hillary Clinton purportedly approving “a plan concerning U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump and Russian hackers hampering U.S. elections” in order to distract the public from her email scandal.
That referral was sent to Comey and then-Deputy Assistant Director of Counterintelligence Peter Strzok.
“The following information is provided for the exclusive use of your bureau for background investigative action or lead purposes as appropriate,” the CIA memo to Comey and Strzok stated.
"This memorandum contains sensitive information that could be source revealing. It should be handled with particular attention to compartmentation and need-to-know. To avoid the possible compromise of the source, any investigative action taken in response to the information below should be coordinated in advance with Chief Counterintelligence Mission Center, Legal,” the memo, which was sent to Comey and Strzok, read. “It may not be used in any legal proceeding—including FISA applications—without prior approval…”
“Per FBI verbal request, CIA provides the below examples of information the CROSSFIRE HURRICANE fusion cell has gleaned to date," the memo continued. "“An exchange [REDACTED] discussing US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s approval of a plan concerning US presidential candidate Donald Trump and Russian hackers hampering US elections as a means of distracting the public from her use of a private email server.”
The memo is heavily redacted.
It is unclear, at this point, which documents will be declassified next, and when they will be released to the public.
Ratcliffe's statement revealed that the documents that have since been declassified could be responsive to requests made by Durham as part of his investigation into the origins of the Russia probe.
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